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Kent Stevens (D-Lawrenceburg) was one of 52 state representatives who voted Friday afternoon in favor of slot machines at the state's horse racing tracks.
The measure passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 52-45, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The issue needed 51 votes to pass. The measure must now be approved by the Senate. As of Friday afternoon, it was still unknown if the Senate would vote on the issue during the current special session.
In a telephone interview Friday morning before the vote, Stevens said he hadn’t firmly made up his mind because the bill before the House was very fluid.
“I want to see the final product, but I am going to do what I think is best,” Stevens said.
Thursday, the House budget committee reportedly passed the measure in a 19-9 vote. However, Senate President David Williams indicated that the Senate might adjourn before ever voting on the slots issue or others brought forth by Gov. Steve Beshear for the special session.
“Because the slots bill, you know, you can stick a fork in it. It’s done,” Williams is quoted as saying in Friday morning’s edition of the Herald-Leader.
Stevens, who represents Anderson, Mercer and a portion of Spencer counties, said a move by House Speaker Greg Stumbo to earmark a reported $1.3 billion from money generated from slots for proposed school and university projects could have a significant impact on Anderson County.
Stevens, a retired educator, said the aging Early Childhood Center which houses Anderson’s kindergarten and preschool students, potentially could be replaced if those funds are generated.
“Being an educator, I like that,” Stevens said. “I’m pro-education because the kids are our future. We have kids in Anderson, Mercer and Spencer counties I want to have the best opportunities.”
Stevens said there are plenty of pros and cons to allowing slots at racetracks. He said along with possible education funding, he likes the idea of Kentucky protecting one of its largest industries: horse racing.
“I’ve never pulled a slot in my life,” Stevens said. “But I know I’ve been given statistics that horse racing is among the top 10 businesses in the state and that 100,000 people make a living on horse racing.
“In Kentucky, we are trying to attract multi-million dollar businesses for economic development, and with horse racing, we have a multi-million dollar business other state’s are trying to take away from us.”
Stevens said he has received limited correspondence from his constituents, but those who contacted his office were slightly in favor of slots at racetracks.
“It’s about 60-40 in favor,” he said.